Thai editor free after 7 years in jail for 2 articles

BANGKOK — The editor of a political magazine who was convicted of insulting Thailand's monarchy said after his release from prison Monday that he will join public demonstrations to call for elections and an end to military rule.

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a labor activist, was detained in 2011 for publishing two pseudonymous articles in his now-defunct Voice of Thaksin magazine, which he launched in 2009 to provide news to supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

His arrest drew attention to suppression of freedom of expression in Thailand, as well as to the lese majeste law under which he was convicted.

Thailand's monarchy is protected by a strict law that makes insulting the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison per offense. Critics charge it is often used as a political weapon by the government against adversaries, and the current military regime has frequently employed it.

Somyot was also sentenced to a year in prison on charges of defaming an army general who helped lead the 2006 coup.

Somyot was released from Bangkok Remand Prison on Monday morning and was greeted by supporters who offered flowers and held signs bearing his name and caricature.

Speaking to reporters in front of the prison, Somyot said he would join protests calling for elections and an end to military rule, referring to sporadic protests led by student activists that have emerged in recent months to oppose the ruling junta.

"Demonstrations are conducted by the people because there was a military coup and because such political changes set the country back and cause major losses to the economy," Somyot said.

He also said he wishes to address the hardships and rights violations that inmates face in Thai prisons, which he said he had documented behind bars.

His son, Panithan Prueksakasemsuk, said the family has advised him about the risks involved should he decide to take part in political demonstrations.

"If he is too provocative, it will be a risk that he must accept," Panithan said in a video posted on Facebook. "He'll have to decide but he understands it well. It has been seven years and the times back then seem a lot less risky than today's circumstances," Panitharn said, referring to the fact that the military had since seized power.

"Many things have changed in seven years. There are many things in his life that will need to be sorted out. He will need new clothes, a phone. When he went in, they probably didn't even have smartphones," Panithan said.

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